05/13/10 2:22 AM ET
Kuroda conquers D-backs, bad memories
Righty fans nine in 7 1/3 innings to lead LA's first sweep
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
With their win streak now four, the Dodgers recorded their first series sweep of the year, their first road series win and returned to .500 for the first time since April 21.
"This is a nice roll for us," said Andre Ethier, who padded his Triple Crown stats with a two-run homer.
Kuroda was returning to Chase Field for the first time since he was drilled on the head nine months ago by a Rusty Ryal line drive that left him with a concussion and herniated neck disk.
He admitted he was nervous when he walked the first batter he faced, Conor Jackson, on four pitches.
"I'm a human being, so I was a little more nervous for the first hitter," Kuroda said. "Then I told myself, what am I doing? I have to pitch aggressively, and I was able to regroup myself and pitch the rest of the game."
He pitched 7 1/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) with nine strikeouts and only that one walk, raising his record to 4-1 and further establishing himself as the de facto ace of the staff.
"Starting pitching adds stability and we play a lot differently when we get it," said manager Joe Torre. "We beat [Ubaldo] Jimenez Sunday and [Dan] Haren last night. That's good for our confidence and not easy to do."
But this one wouldn't have been a win without the run support that came first on Ethier's two-run homer in the fourth inning (his 11th, to go with 37 RBIs and a .385 average), then Ramirez's three-run double off the center-field wall in the seventh when, with first base open, Arizona manager A.J. Hinch had former Dodgers pitcher Edwin Jackson walk Ethier intentionally to pitch to Ramirez, who came into the game with a .396 average and a Hall of Fame reputation.
"It's a difficult call and the way it turns out, obviously, it's a bad call," said Hinch. "Two of the hottest hitters in the league with all of the money on the table. Unfortunately, we'll never know if we go the other way how that plays out. I remember how it went in L.A. when Ethier was up [with first base open and Ramirez on deck, Hinch pitched to Ethier and he homered]. That's proof positive that both of them can hurt you."
Ramirez still has nothing to do with the media, so if Hinch's strategy this time was an insult, he wasn't saying. But Ethier said it for him.
"Everyone takes that personally, and rightfully so with the success he's had in his career," said Ethier. "I think it's the first time that's happened in the two years he's been here. You get the guy's juices flowing and that gets him dialed in and he got the job done.
"I was just saying the other day that half the reason I get some situations and the hits I do, I might come through, but at the same time, Manny's resume is a lot longer than mine and he's had success a lot of times more, so they usually pick on the guy with only two full years of playing time. I had hit the ball hard a couple times and it was their thinking to take a shot with Manny and he answered."
Kuroda left with one on and one out in the eighth. Ronald Belisario walked the only batter he faced and was quickly replaced by Hong-Chih Kuo, who walked the first batter he faced to load the bases. Adam LaRoche, who doubled in two runs earlier, brought home another run with a sacrifice fly, but Kuo escaped further damage in the eighth and Jonathan Broxton pitched the ninth for the save.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.